David Abbott (magician)

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David Abbott
Cover of Sphinx (Oct. 1906)
David Phelps Abbott

September 22, 1863
DiedJune 12, 1934 (1934-06-13) (aged 70)
Resting placeWestlawn-Hillcrest Memorial, 5701 Center Street, Omaha, Nebraska
Known formagician, author and inventor

David Phelps Abbott (September 22, 1863 – June 12, 1934) was a magician, author and inventor who created such effects as the floating ball, later made famous by Okito. The best known of his books is Behind the Scenes with the Mediums (1907) considered to be one of the best exposures of the tricks used by mediums. One exposure being the "spirit portrait paintings" by the Bangs Sisters.


David Abbott was born in 1863 near Falls City and lived most of his life in Omaha. Abbott died in 1934 of diabetes. His burial was at Westlawn-Hillcrest Memorial Park, Omaha, Nebraska.[1] He was married to Fannie E. Abbott. He became a wealthy businessman in the American Mid-West. He was well versed in arts and science. After Albert Einstein published his theory of relativity, Abbott attempted to explain it in a newspaper article.[2]

As a magician, he performed for invited guests in his private theater he built at his home from 1907 until he died. There he demonstrated his Talking Teakettle (around 1907, decades before miniature radio electronics came into use) and Talking Vase (in 1909).[3] Abbott built his work of magic and deception on the devious principles he learned from spirit mediums. Many of the greats in magic– Kellar, Thurston, Horace Goldin, Theo Bamberg, Ching Ling Foo, Blackstone and Houdini among others–made pilgrimages to Omaha Field Club neighborhood "Mystery House" to be dumbfounded and to learn.[4][5]

Abbott was a friend of the magician Harry Houdini.[6] His most well known work was Behind the Scenes with the Mediums published in 1907, which went through several editions.[7]

Abbott wrote a second full-length book, describing not only the séances given in his home but many magical feats which had astounded top professional performers; he died before it could be published, and for a long time the manuscript could not be found. When the Abbott home was sold in 1936, the manuscript was thought to be lost.[8] It was discovered by Walter Graham and published as David P. Abbott's Book Of Mysteries in 1977.[4]



  1. ^ "David Phelps Abbott". Retrieved 20 May 2016.
  2. ^ "Omaha Magician-Philosopher Interprets Einstein's Theory". Retrieved 20 May 2016.
  3. ^ The Sphinx, October, 1906.
  4. ^ a b "David P. Abbott (1863-1934)" Archived November 3, 2013, at the Wayback Machine. Retrieved 20 May 2016.
  5. ^ "In this illusionist's house of mysteries, secrets didn't vanish" Archived October 31, 2013, at Archive.today. Retrieved 20 May 2016.
  6. ^ Polidoro, Massimo. (2001). Final Séance: The Strange Friendship Between Houdini and Conan Doyle. Prometheus Books. p. 32. ISBN 1-57392-896-8
  7. ^ Price, David. (1985). Magic: A Pictorial History of Conjurers in the Theater. Cornwall Books. p. 484. ISBN 978-0845347386 "Abbott's greatest contribution to ridding the world of superstition was, no doubt, his book Behind the Scenes with the Mediums. It was a great expose and opened the eyes of many to the frauds being perpetrated on the public at the time the book was written. It was first published in 1907 and ran for several editions. Abbott wrote other books along the same lines, but Behind the Scenes with the Mediums was the best and most successful."
  8. ^ "David Abbott Inventor and Spirit Hoax Buster". Retrieved 20 May 2016.

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